Service review: QUT Library Reference Service – “Ask a Librarian”

This week’s Information Programs, Products and Services topic, “Reference”,  and our Twitter chat, #ifn614refchat prompted me to think about the reference services available from the QUT library website.  After 3 semesters of studying at QUT as an external student, I had never before taken advantage of this service, preferring to do my own research for assignments and find my own information.

So, fighting against all my natural instincts, I decided to access the Ask a Librarian reference service on the QUT library website for help with finding references for a potential project I am thinking about for next semester.  It turned out to be surprisingly easy to Ask a Librarian, was quite helpful; and I may well do it again sometime.

Let me take you through the process, in case, like me, you have never used the service before:  

There are 2 access points to the Ask a Librarian service on the QUT library homepage; one in the header and the other in the footer.  Both links are identified by the text, Need help? Ask a Librarian (See screen capture below).

QUT library home page https://www.library.qut.edu.au/ screen capture, 10/08/16.

QUT library home page https://www.library.qut.edu.au/ screen capture, 10/08/16.

Click either link, and you will be taken to the dedicated Ask a Librarian page of the QUT library website.  As you can see by the screen capture below, the page provides information about the kinds of things you can ask about (e.g. resources and services, researching, search strategies, etc), FAQs and links for students and researchers to find more help.  Displayed prominently on the page, with symbol icons to make them easy to see and understand, are 4 methods you can use to get help from a librarian; including: visiting a helpdesk, chatting online, email / online form and phone.

Need help_Ask a Librarian_page_crop

Ask a Librarian web page https://www.library.qut.edu.au/help/ screen capture, 10/08/16.

This variety of contact methods caters to a variety of user needs, preferences, and user convenience. Popp (2012)  discusses the value of convenience to users, in terms of access to resources, and time: that is, users want what is needed as quickly and easily as possible.  The Ask a Librarian service certainly fulfils these convenience factors. My preference was to send an email.  (See below).

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Reference question email screen capture 10/08/16

I received an automated response within 15 minutes of sending my email (not bad, I thought, considering I sent it at 9:30pm), to say that someone would resolve my enquiry within 3 days.

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Automated response email screen capture 10/08/2016

The response came the next morning at 11:19am (see below), containing a link to only 1 article, but also including relevant, helpful information about:

  • where to search (Library Quickfind, educational databases such as ERIC, Google Scholar)
  • how to search, including search strategies and possible search terms
  • how to refine search results
  • how to find relevant journals and databases
  • how to find relevant search terms from article abstracts
  • contacting my liaison librarian, along with her contact details.
  • Contacting the library again if I required more help.
Ask a Librarian_response_crop

Ask a Librarian email response screen capture 10/08/16

My project query is not yet well-defined; still in the initial stages of development, without a full suite of key words, and no literature searches have been carried out at this stage; so this was an exploratory search.  I thought that the response I received was completely satisfactory, providing me with a relevant article, useful strategies for further searches, directing me to useful tools, and referring me on to my liaison librarian to discuss the project in more depth. I thought that the response time in particular was very good.

QUT library’s Ask a Librarian reference service met my expectations.  It was convenient, informative, relevant and quick.  I would recommend this service to other students or researchers requiring support with finding appropriate, relevant sources for projects and assignments.

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